Anyone who knows the English language will probably know that there are many, many synonyms for most words.
But anyone who knows the English language will also probably know that there are many instances where someone can repeat a similar word to describe something, even if they didn’t know it was already used by someone else.
I mean, how many of you can say that you’ve said a word that no one else in the world has ever said before? I know I can’t.
So I guess it’s no surprise that the word “weaponised” came up as a topic for discussion during the Committee of Privileges (COP) hearing yesterday (15 February).
Er, yes. We’re watching MPs debate word choice in Parliament, but I guess you could say that it’s not all that childish.
Yesterday’s debate in Parliament discussed former Workers’ Party (WP) Member of Parliament (MP) Raeesah Khan’s $35,000 fine for lying in Parliament and re-telling the lie again, as well as the referral of WP leaders Pritam Singh and Faisal Manap to the Public Prosecutor.
TL;DR: Raeesah Khan’s fined, Pritam Singh and Faisal Manap might be charged and might lose their seats in Parliament.
Although someone’s choice of words might seem like the most trivial thing, especially when contrasted with such a grave, important matter like the one discussed in Parliament yesterday, there must be a reason why National Development Minister Desmond Lee refused to let go of the word after hearing it come out of Singh’s mouth.
And so there’s a very simple reason why this word was brought up: it was used as part of a description in a draft of the COP report, but was not included in the final report.
I’ll leave it to you to decide whether it’s a silly coincidence or not, but hey, this really could go either way.
Desmond Lee’s Question to Pritam Singh
Basically, during the debate, there was a point where Pritam Singh argued, “Most egregious in my mind is the conclusion that in seeking a psychiatric evaluation for Ms Khan, I had somehow weaponised her condition”.
Apart from that, Singh’s speech also included his opinion on how the COP portrayed him with regards to Raeesah Khan’s mental health condition, saying that they “used very uncharitable, I would even say unparliamentary, words to describe what I did”.
After hearing him speak, COP member and PAP MP Desmond Lee asked Singh for clarification regarding the term “weaponised”.
I heard Mr Singh say earlier, very specifically, that “I had somehow weaponised her condition”, referring, I presume, to the Committee of Privileges’ findings on what he had said about Ms Khan’s purported mental health conditions. “Weaponised her condition” — perhaps I can ask the Leader of the Opposition where in the report he sees us use that term.”
After being asked to clarify if he had seen the word “weaponised” in the report and used it during his speech, Singh replied that he would check the report and his notes.
“Let me have a look at it. I think it’s a fair question, if indeed that word was not used and it was not right for me to use it, I’m happy to withdraw it. But let me just at least look at the report,” he said.
Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong then gave a speech.
“Weaponised” Used in an Earlier Draft; Did Not Make the Final Cut
Right before PM Lee’s speech, when asked about his word choice (again), Singh replied that while he was reading the COP’s report, “weaponised” was “the word that occurred to [him] as to what the committee was trying to do” with regards to Raeesah Khan’s mental state.
In response to that, Lee then revealed that the term was used in an earlier draft of the COP report, but did not make the final report that was distributed to the MPs present in Parliament yesterday after the committee conducted a round of private discussions.
He then ask, “So I’d like to ask the Leader of the Opposition, who told him about the use of the term “weaponised” with respect to Ms Khan’s mental health condition?”
After PM Lee’s speech, Singh made several comments and replies but did not address the issue of the word “weaponising”.
This then lead to Lee re-introducing the issue of Singh’s word choice and Lee asked him to clarify that and let Parliament know where exactly in the report did he see a reference to the term.
“I asked, because it is a very specific word. It’s a very specific way of characterisation and this is important for the integrity of the Committee of Privileges’ process,” he claimed.
The Draft VS The Final
Right after, Lee also recited the original draft that was later edited before being handed out to the various MPs present in Parliament.
As opposed to the final report, which included the sentence “Mr Singh then alleged that Ms Khan had mental health problems, and suggested that she was predisposed to lying and so on and so forth.”, the draft included the following: “Mr Singh essentially weaponised unsubstantiated allegations that Ms Khan was unstable and unreliable, and that she was prone to lying because of her mental health, and this was connected to her being a sexual assault victim”.
Lee then concluded his first clarification by asking Singh if he was told about the drafts and their content, and said that “Mr Singh would not have reference to this specific term unless somehow earlier drafts were shared with him.”
Or, you know, maybe he just happened to end up using the exact same word as you did previously…?
“Characterisation” of What Pritam Singh Saw
Afterwards, Singh then clarified that the word was indeed not in the COP’s report, and that it was his own “characterisation of what [he] saw was that particular paragraph”.
He also cited another source, Rice Media, that had possibly used the same word, and quoted that they wrote, “Now that the claims on Raeesah Khan’s mental health have been refuted, how do you feel about weaponising an individual’s mental health in an investigation?”
Ah. I’m pretty sure they’re not going to ask the boss of Rice Media to sit in for future Parliament hearings… Or are they?
He also highlighted that he “did not refer in [his] speech to say that the report specifically used the word”.
As for yesterday’s hearing, Lee also clarified another matter with Singh, this time regarding the omission of his conversations with two of Khan’s assistants regarding their “contemporaneous views” about the WP’s disciplinary panel.
Shortly before that, Singh claimed that the related evidence was not included in the committee’s report, and argued.
“The fact of the matter is the COP relies on contemporaneous evidence and puts a high prohibitive value in it in certain cases. Mr Lee just read out a narration of text messages between Ms Loh and Mr Nathan which is on the record,” Singh opined.
However, Lee brought up other claims regarding Khan’s assistants that Singh had failed to talk about, such as how one of them had “grave reservations” about WP’s disciplinary and Singh’s “suppression of material facts” in front of the panel.
Lee then refuted this claim by stating that all the evidence could be found in the annexes of the report, to which Singh further insisted, “My point is I have submitted documents to the COP which are not on the record and there’s an important difference there”.
Although it was not indicated specifically, it’s safe to say that Lee (and maybe the rest of the COP) might have become suspicious of the fact that Singh may have gotten to take a look at the drafts of the COP report.
However, it’s still too early to point fingers; I mean, it’s not like “weaponised” is a term that’s copyrighted.
Additionally, with Singh and his party’s vice-chairman, Faisal Manap, being referred to the Public Prosecutor for further review of their actions in Parliament, I’m sure they already have enough on their plate to worry about.
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